It’s not very often a team with 11 losses earns a trip to the 4A Washington state basketball championships, but the Camas Papermakers (16-11) are not your typical 11-loss team.
The girls basketball team faced some of the region’s best teams early in the season and then played much of the season without Jalena Carlisle, one of their best players.
Head coach Scott Thompson knew something wasn’t quite right with Carlisle, who was a second team all-league player during her sophomore year in 2018-19.
“I told her early in the season to go in and get her blood tested,” Thompson told the Post-Record.
Carlisle soon discovered that her iron and vitamin levels were extremely low. Low levels of some vitamins and iron is not uncommon amongst some athletes, but Carlisle’s levels were low enough that doctors asked her to stop playing basketball immediately. The Camas High junior sat out several games and that was restricted to play for just two minutes at a time during several games.
She said having an iron infusion at Oregon Health Science University in February made a big difference.
“I was just so excited to get back out there,” Carlisle said after scoring 10 points and playing tough defense against Lake Stevens (19-6) in the regional round of the state tournament on Saturday, Feb. 29, at Shorewood High School.
“Eleven-loss teams are usually not in the dome right now, but we’re not an 11-loss team now that we have Jalena back,” Thompson said.
Camas High senior shooting guard Haylie Johnson hit four 3-point shots at the Feb. 29 game, scoring 16 points and helping the Papermakers lead 23-2 in the third quarter.
“It’s a fun vibe, we have great chemistry together, we all want the same things and that’s what we are working so hard for,” Johnson said.
Wolfpack mentality leads to upset win over Lake Stevens
The Vikings from Lake Stevens were loaded with three Division 1-bound players, including the team’s 6-foot-2 Kylee Griffen, who will play for Gonzaga University next season, and guard Raigan Reed, who signed with Boise State University.
But the Papermakers used what they call a “wolf pack” mentality to pull off the 56-42 upset. The Papermakers consider nine of their players “starters” and rotate fresh players into the game every few minutes.
“They might have the stars, but they don’t quite have the depth that we do, so as the game wore on, their legs started to go,” Thompson said. “Our fresh legs were hitting jump shots. Our fresh legs were making the extra pass, and we kept making good plays later in the game when their legs were tired, and that’s when it started to swing in our direction.”
Camas center Faith Bergstrom is typically the Papermakers leading scorer, but accepted more of a defensive role because of the size and talent of the Vikings’ players. Bergstrom played her best defensive game of the season according to her coaches.
Coronavirus forces a change of venue
The Lake Stevens game was originally scheduled to be played at Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Washington, but Washington State Department of Health officials announced the night before the game that a Jackson student had tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, so four playoff games scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 29 were moved to Shorewood High School.
As of this newspaper’s print deadline on March 3, Camas was still scheduled to play Glacier Peak (20-4) at the Tacoma Dome on March 4, in a loser-out contest.
“I’m just hoping not to hear bad news,” Thompson said. “Every morning I’ve been getting up early and checking where the new outbreak is and where the new cases are, and I’m just hoping it stays out of Tacoma, and we keep this thing rolling.”
For Carlisle and her teammates, the trip to the dome was the ultimate goal this season, but those goals have changed.
“Now that we’re at the dome all we want to do is get past the first day,” Carlisle said.
If the 14th-seed Papermakers beat the fourth-seed Glacier Peak Grizzlies, Camas will have at least two more games as they shoot ever closer to winning the 4A state basketball championship.